MINNEAPOLIS — Generations of Vikings fans are about to embark on a bold and fantastic voyage.
The team unveiled the “Vikings Voyage,” a 10,000-square-foot interactive and historic space on Friday during the grand opening of the Vikings Locker Room store location at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The one-of-a-kind space separates itself from a traditional museum but not from the tradition of the Vikings.
The Vikings Voyage will be free for all ticketed fans. It is open before, during and until an hour after games end. The space will open at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday when the Vikings host the Chargers in the first football game at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“Our goal was to create a space where fans of all ages could celebrate Vikings and what it means to be a Viking, whether you have been a fan for generations or you’re brand new to the organization or a young child,” said Vikings Executive Director, Brand & Creative Erin Swartz. “There’s this great mix of history and the future all mended together, which is what’s really cool about this space.”
Swartz hadn’t finished the sentence before two young fans ran up to a nearby structural column wrapped with a graphic celebrating historic milestones and shouted, “Vi-kings! Vi-kings! Vi-kings! Vi-kings!,” as they tapped a photo of Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton under center.
“This is why we built it,” said Swartz, who is expecting her third son soon.
Moments later the young fans zoomed over to a centerpiece of the space, an interpretation of a longship that features a 30-foot screen for a dramatic and cinematic film.
“We wanted to start with the ship as the core because we really think it tells that story of what it means to be a Viking,” Swartz said. “Starting there, you have a moment, a great opportunity to teach them what being a Viking is all about.”
In addition to rare artifacts and artistic acclamations of athletic accomplishments, the Vikings Voyage features interactive spaces that implement state-of-the-art technology, bringing lore to life.
A virtual reality machine in the “Prove Your Honor” section allows guests to catch passes, and a blocking sled measures power in the “Forging Strength” area. Another component called “Speed Prevails” allows two guests to race against each other and the time that a Vikings player posted in the 20-yard shuttle drill at the NFL Scouting Combine. “Sky to Valhalla” measures vertical leaps. An RFID bracelet allows participants to track their results against family, friends and other fans, and the bracelet is free for fans to keep as a souvenir.
Fans also can take a seat amidst history, thanks to a life-sized sculpture of Jim Marshall, Alan Page, Carl Eller and Gary Larsen that was inspired by a famous photo of the Purple People Eaters. Fans can sit in the middle of the defensive linemen for an incredible photo opportunity.
The team covered all costs of the Vikings Voyage that reached several millions of dollars to take fans’ experiences to unexplored levels.
“As an organization, we constantly look to innovate and provide the best fan experience possible, and our approach was no different with the addition of the Vikings Voyage,” Vikings Owner/President Mark Wilf said. “The Voyage will bring fans together, allowing them to engage with their family and friends while celebrating Vikings history.”
The Vikings partnered with Dimensional Innovations to execute the project. The first discussions began in early 2015 on the best way to honor history and deliver unprecedented experiences.
“They didn’t want to make it too stale and too traditional,” Dimensional Innovations Account Manager Brent Haag said. “They wanted to capture some of those great moments in history and pay respect to that, but technology is everywhere, and it’s important to every generation.”
The “Battle Armor” section is another example of tradition meeting technology. The game-worn uniforms of Dave Osborn and John Randle are on display, flanking an OLED interactive screen that guides guests through the history of uniforms.
“This OLED screen for the Battle Armor is revolutionary,” Haag said. “There is nothing like that in any sports setting.”
Swartz and Haag said a display featuring 1,000 reflective chrome footballs suspended from the ceiling provides quite the recap of Cris Carter becoming the second player in NFL history to record 1,000 receptions. He totaled 1,004 catches during his 12 seasons with the Vikings.
“It was about giving a great visual or physicality to how amazing an achievement that is in a way that stats on a wall don’t provide,” Swartz said.
Haag added, “I think this is a bit of a showstopper.”